Ukraine at D+221: Ukraine's counteroffensive reports further progress.
N2K logoOct 3, 2022

Ukraine continues to advance in the Donetsk and Kherson regions. Russia continues to struggle with logistics and mobilization.

Ukraine at D+221: Ukraine's counteroffensive reports further progress.

Ukraine advances in Donetsk.

On Saturday Ukrainian forces completed the reconquest of the city of Lyman, a key rail and road junction in Donetsk. The MoD's Sunday morning situation report described the implications of this development. "On 1 October 2022 the Russian force in the Donetsk Oblast town of Lyman withdrew in the face of Ukrainian advances. Lyman was likely being defended by undermanned elements of Russia’s Western and Central Military Districts as well as contingents of voluntarily mobilised reservists. The force probably experienced heavy casualties as it withdrew along the only road out of the town still in Russian hands. Operationally, Lyman is important because it commands a key road crossing over the Siversky Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defences. Russia’s withdrawal from Lyman also represents a significant political setback given that it is located within Donetsk Oblast, a region Russia supposedly aimed to ‘liberate’ and has attempted to illegally annex. The withdrawal has led to a further wave of public criticism of Russia’s military leadership by senior officials. Further losses of territory in illegally occupied territories will almost certainly lead to an intensification of this public criticism and increase the pressure on senior commanders."

The New York Times reports significant numbers of "demoralized Russian stragglers" in the vicinity of Lyman, and former US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster tells the International Business Times that Russian troop morale may have reached its breaking point.

With Lyman reported secure, Ukrainian forces are continuing to advance in Dontesk, approaching the cities of Kreminna and Svatove. Advances have also been reported in the South. Over the weekend Ukraine claimed to have retaken two towns, Arkhangelske and Myrolyubivka, in the Kherson region, the Telegraph reports. According to the AP, Russia's Defense Ministry has acknowledged a Ukrainian breakthrough in Kherson.

Russia continues to expend long-range ordnance against civilian targets.

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) discussed in its Saturday morning situation report the implications of Friday's strike against a civilian relief column in Zaporizhzhia. "On 30 September 2022, Russian forces almost certainly struck a convoy south-east of the town of Zaporizhzhia. Local authorities report 25 civilians killed. The munition involved was likely a Russian long-range air defence missile being used in a ground attack role." The expenditure of long-range missiles, and the use of air defense weapons in a ground attack role suggests that conventional artillery is no longer as available as it was in the early weeks of the war. It's also not likely to be a sustainable tactic. "Russia’s stock of such missiles is highly likely limited and is a high-value resource designed to shoot down modern aircraft and incoming missiles, rather than for use against ground targets. Its use in ground attack role has almost certainly been driven by overall munitions shortages, particularly longer-range precision missiles." The MoD also observes that annexation hasn't restrained Russian attacks against civilians who, Moscow claims, are now their own citizens. "On the same day, President Putin signed annexation agreements for Zaporizhzhia and other parts of occupied Ukraine. Russia is expending strategically valuable military assets in attempts to achieve tactical advantage and in the process is killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens."

Ukraine and NATO membership.

Nine NATO governments, all in Eastern or Central Europe, formally expressed their support for Ukrainian membership in NATO, the AP reports. "The leaders of Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and Slovakia published a statement on their websites Sunday saying: 'We support Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion, demand (that Russia) immediately withdraw from all the occupied territories and encourage all allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine.' It said the leaders 'firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership.' At the 2008 summit, NATO members welcomed Ukraine and Georgia’s aspirations to join, but declined to provide a clear timeline for the two countries’ possible ascension. Sunday’s letter didn’t mention a timeline, either."

NATO membership for Ukraine isn't imminent, but this expression of support from within the Atlantic Alliance is significant. It's noteworthy that the nine countries all have recent experience of living under the domination of a larger neighbor (either Russia or Serbia). Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has requested a fast track to NATO membership, as Foreign Policy notes. The Atlantic Council looks at Kyiv's prospects for accession to the Alliance.

Evading mobilization.

Russian President Putin, in an unusual acknowledgement of difficulties, told his National Security Council on Friday that mistakes had been made in carrying out partial mobilization. The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported this morning, "On 29 September 2022, President Putin addressed his National Security Council on the ‘partial mobilisation’ he had announced on 21 September. He said, ‘a lot of questions are being raised during this mobilisation campaign, and we must promptly correct our mistakes and not repeat them.’ Putin’s unusually rapid acknowledgement of problems highlights the dysfunction of the mobilisation over its first week. Local officials are likely unclear on the exact scope and legal rationale of the campaign. They have almost certainly drafted some personnel who are outside the definitions claimed by Putin and the Ministry of Defence. As drafted reservists continue to assemble at tented transit camps, Russian officials are likely struggling to provide training and in finding officers to lead new units."

The Telegraph, citing sources in the Kremlin, reports that a more comprehensive mobilization may be in the offing as a sense of desperation and frustration over combat failure rises. “'It’s clear we have to win. This is the only possible option. We need to do everything to make sure this happens, and we need to do it now. This train is already running and we are in it; there are only two ways of getting out,' said one top official. When asked what would happen if Russia lost, our source replied that he could not imagine such a scenario. As with our other interviewees who support the war, he only reiterated the narrative spouted by propagandists: the West wants to destroy Russia, and defeat in a war with Ukraine would mean Russia’s demise."

There seems to be a thriving online black market in goods and services designed to help Russian men avoid being called to the colors. BleepingComputer says that the items on offer include "fabricated exemptions," promises to alter official databases to keep the customer's name out of call-up sweeps, and "gray" SIM cards to help evade government surveillance, Some of the offers are legitimate, in the sense that they deliver on their promises of helping the customer evade Russian law, but others are, as might have been foreseen, simple scams that leave the buyer as vulnerable to conscription as he was before, only marginally poorer.

An overview of the state of Russian cyber operations in the hybrid war so far.

Lawfare describes the relative unimportance of cyber operations in Russia's hybrid war. The reason for this, an essay argues, is not that Russia has no serious cyber capability, but rather that there's little use for cyber operations in a war of the kind presently being waged. There's no doubt something to that, and cyber operations may indeed have limited battlefield potential, although some counterexamples come readily to mind. What about activity traditionally conducted as electronic warfare, like jamming or deception? What about disruption of civilian and military infrastructure, like power distribution systems? Both have clearly been shown to be within Russian capabilities, yet they don't seem to have had significant effect.

Lawfare does make a strong case that influence operations have become more important to Russia than any of the more destructive attacks that had been widely feared and expected. "Though cyberwarfare did not occur as anticipated in Russia’s war against Ukraine, it has played an important role from the start," the essay concludes. "The engagements in cyberwar have left the United States and its allies with two challenges: determining how to handle information warfare and developing an understanding of how the particular set of actions in this war change our perception of how cyberwar might—or might not—take place in future conflicts."

But such influence operations also seem to have fallen short of what Moscow had desired. See, for example, the strong sense of isolation communicated by official Russian propagandists in this broadcast designed for domestic consumption.

"Anonymous Russia" briefly takes MI5 site offline.

MI5, the UK's domestic security service, had its public website briefly taken offline Friday in a DDoS attack the Times characterized as primitive and short-lived. Service was quickly restored, and MI5 says no data were lost or exposed. A nominally hacktivist group identifying itself as "Anonymous Russia" claimed responsibility, the Independent reports. Anonymous Russia claims to be the Russian branch of the Anonymous hacktivist collective, but such claims are difficult to substantiate, or even make sense of, given the protean character of Anonymous itself.